Rallying adventure has Trim man on the brink of Australian glory

Story by Fergal Lynch

Thursday, 6th September, 2018 2:02pm

Rallying adventure has Trim man on the brink of Australian glory

JJ Hatton

JJ Hatton has no fear and his passion for extreme sport bears witness to that fact as he currently leads the way in the 2018 Australian NSW Rally Championships.

No stranger to daring endeavours, Hatton climbed Island Peak beside Mount Everest in 2015 and just missed the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal by a matter of days, but that near-miss didn't blunt his enthusiasm for more daring.
Hatton's interest in rallying took off after an ex-girlfriend gave him a present of a day's training at a rally school in Australia and the Trim man hasn't looked back since.

"I got into rallying by an ex-girlfriend got me a birthday present a few years back which was a day at rally school here in Australia," he recalled.
"After my day of rallying the instructor then turned to me and said I was the fastest student driver he ever had in his 13 years as a driving instructor.
"After that I had a friend who was a rally driver and he kept pushing me to get a rally car. Other people told me I couldn’t do it, but that just made me more determined to succeed. So I dug deep and got a rally car - the rest is history.
"Up until this year I had done a few rallies around Australia. In January of this year I decided I was not only going to commit to the full 2018 rally season, but I was going to attempt to become the 2018 state champion. 
"Wishful thinking and very big headed at the time I know, but I was determined and have worked extremely hard and here we are now and it looks like it’s possible. 
"I even have a post-it stuck on the fridge from that day. Fingers crossed I can bring home the outright trophy for everybody here and at home who support me, even people who fly from Ireland to Australia every year to watch me compete in the World Rally Championship.
"Quentin Ashe from Kiltale has come over every year and then others like David Doyle, John Kane, Derek Walsh, Colin McKay who are all Trim men living in Australia and other friends from all over Australia all come to support me and fly the Meath flag.
"For all those people who got a lift off me back in the day in Trim at least my driving has amounted to something useful," joked Hatton.
Known in Australian rallying circles as the 'Crazy Irishman', Trim native Hatton is a real character with a passion for rallying.
Hatton is no stranger to the Rally community, having entered previous NSW championship seasons and has also been seen at selected rounds of the Australian Rally Championship and other local club events.
Mixed results in 2016 hampered Hatton’s chance at a championship win. At the 2016 Rally of the Bay, he went in with great expectations, but a broken gear cable and an encounter with a tree and a small bank, would see them sidelined and disappointed.
Earlier in 2016, Hatton saw better results at the VolksMuller Rallysprint held in the Sydney International Dragway precinct at Eastern Creek in Sydney’s west. 


Some exceptional driving and consistent fast times across the day would see him finish third outright in dusty conditions on a very dry Sydney weekend.
The J-Sport team started the 2017 season by doing the blind, non pace-note, Caves Classic Rally, but once again, there was no luck for the Irish and after moving up to fourth, Hatton was forced to withdraw.
After such a disappointing end to the 2016 running of the Rally of the Bay, Hatton and the J-Sport team were back for the 2017 Rally of the Bay and hoping for a better result.
Consistently clean driving throughout the event and a focused drive would be rewarded, and by the end of the night stage, Hatton had secured second outright.
After such a strong finish, the next rally would see Hatton step up and enter not only the NSW and Australian Championship rounds, but also take on the world's best at Rally Australia for the 2017 World Rally Championship event.
Some flamboyant driving would ensure the J-Sport team were a crowd favourite and consistent stage times kept Hatton and his Evo 9 in the top 20, but not everything went his way.
Day two saw Hatton and a lot of the field damage their cars on a bridge section and subsequently drop back down the field. Ultimately, on day three, two punctures and with only one spare in the car, Hatton would withdraw two stages from the end.
The experience of the demanding three-day WRC outing inspired the J-Sport team to commit to the full 2018 MTA NSW Championship and that is not a decision Hatton has regretted.
"I took up rallying for a bit of fun and because people told me I couldn’t do it. Now a few years later and I’m committing to the full NSW Rally Championship season for 2018, it has been hectic, but I'm loving every split second of it," said the Trim man.
"Amazingly I started off this year as number one seeded car and I'd like to thank all the people who got me to this point and the Australian Rally community for letting me in and helping me out in every which way that was required. Great bunch of people and car clubs.
"Despite cleaning the roads as number one seed I'm currently leading the championship after four round which have been run all over the country.
"I'm only ahead by two points so it will come down to the wire. If I succeed I will be the first Irish man to win the Australia NSW State Championship."
Even competing at such a high level is a remarkable achievement for Hatton. However, he is not just holding his own, he is actually leading the charge - and all on a very low budget compared to many of the other drivers he competes against.
"Considering I only have a shoe -string budget compared to some teams I'm probably far exceeding expectations of those who follow NSW Rallying. My car is probably worth $30,000 compared to some of the other cars which would be worth $700,000" he said.

"I still have a lot of local help with sponsorship from all over Meath who own businesses here in Australia. All Meath men of course. Eddie Shanley who is piling contractor from Enfield, Derek Mullally is a construction contractor from Ballinlough and Paul Garvey a bricklaying contractor from Kiltale all give me great support," concluded the Trim driver who is on the verge of creating history.

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